Just when they were hoping to finish off their tour on a high note, the Lions were rocked by the withdrawal of captain Warren Whiteley for Friday’s Super Rugby showdown with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Lions announced on their Twitter account on Thursday that Whiteley did not pass a fitness test on his knee during the captain’s run at the AMI Stadium.
Whiteley, who had been sidelined for seven weeks with a chest injury before last week’s 23-17 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton, played a massive part in that triumph.
Not only was he superb on the field – his grubber that set up Aphiwe Dyantyi’s try will be long remembered in Lions folklore – Whiteley had to rally the troops after coach Swys de Bruin returned home to receive medical treatment.
“Unfortunately @WarrenWhiteley failed his fitness test at Captains run. @SmithKwagga takes over the captaincy and also moves to No.8. @marnusschoeman moves into the starting line up at No.6 flanker. @Hacjivah Dayimani moves onto the bench as loose-forward reserve. #LionsPride” the Lions posted on Twitter.
Unfortunately @WarrenWhiteley failed his fitness test at Captains run. @SmithKwagga takes over the captaincy and also moves to No.8. @marnusschoeman moves into the starting line up at No.6 flanker. @Hacjivah Dayimani moves onto the bench as loose-forward reserve.#LionsPride pic.twitter.com/8J7invgeCo— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) April 25, 2019
While Smith was also influential against the Chiefs, it is somewhat of a surprise by stand-in coach Ivan van Rooyen that he is now the captain, as Elton Jantjies is the official vice-captain.
Jantjies will start in the unusual inside centre position against the defending champions (9.35am SA time kickoff), which is where he also featured against the Chiefs.
Revised Lions Team
Ruan Combrinck, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Shaun Reynolds, Nic Groom, Kwagga Smith (captain), Cyle Brink, Marnus Schoeman, Marvin Orie, Stephan Lewies, Carlu Sadie, Robbie Coetzee, Sti Sithole.
Bench: Jan-Henning Campher, Nathan McBeth, Johannes Jonker, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Hacjivah Dayimani, Ross Cronje, Franco Naude, Tyrone Green.@ashfakmohamed